By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
LIMA, Ill. -- It's a new a look, a new feel and the beginning of a new era for what was once the Federated Church of Lima.
The church is now under the leadership of The Crossing and becomes the seventh regional campus for the non-denominational Quincy-based megachurch.
The two church bodies had been working together in recent years to come up with a more effective outreach plan.
"The Federated Church of Lima (eventually) approached us about the possibility of dissolving and us taking over their church," said Walt Wilcoxson, who is serving as the Lima campus pastor for The Crossing. "The people in Lima wanted an active, vibrant church. They have been very courageous to take such a step to keep a church in the community. It has been phenomenal to work with them."
The Rev. Jerry Harris, the senior pastor of The Crossing's main campus at 48th and Maine in Quincy, said the existing Lima facility, which is only 7 years old, is in the process of being remodeled to give it the same kind of feel all of The Crossing campuses have. The church building was rebuilt following a tornado in 2003.
"We've changed the look," Harris said.
The sanctuary has been remodeled, some of the classrooms have received a new coat of paint and comfortable chairs have replaced the old-school pews. Services were held in the gymnasium while the remodeling was under way.
"We're kind of unique," Harris said. "Most churches our size are in metropolitan areas. We're now more of a regional church."
The Crossing also has campuses in Macomb, Pittsfield, a second Quincy campus at 929 Monroe and Missouri sites in Hannibal and Kirksville. The Crossing's weekend services now attract a combined 5,300. The 48th and Maine site is the largest at between 2,400 and 2,500. The new Lima site attracted a combined 484 for its first two services since becoming a branch of The Crossing on Nov. 18.
Harris also said The Crossing leadership is now serving as a mentor -- or "coach" -- for 17 other churches, all outside the immediate West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri region. The closest is in Burlington, Iowa.
Harris said the churches contacted The Crossing in recent years to help them develop a more contemporary approach to their worship.
"Some are larger than us and some cross denominational lines," he said. "They bring their whole staff here to see how we do things."
Since The Crossing adopted its ever-evolving contemporary approach, it has grown from a church of 200 in 1998 to its seven campuses and weekly attendance of 5,000-plus.
"It's been a rocket ride," Harris said.
Harris said there are no plans to launch any more campuses in the coming year, but "if someone comes to us (like Lima), we'll talk to them."
The former Federated Church of Lima was formed in 1953 when the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) combined with a Methodist church.
Wilcoxson said some of the early focus in Lima will be establishing small groups, which he said are keys to the success of a large church. More attention will also be paid to the junior high and senior high age groups.
"People are already coming from all over, from Hamilton, from Sutter ... ," Wilcoxson said. "The goal is always to bring more people to Christ."
Services at the Lima campus are at 10 a.m. each Sunday. Wilcoxson said a second service will probably soon be needed if the early growth continues.
For more information about the Lima campus, call the church at (217) 985-5161.